Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Varadero, Cuba

The Varadero beach really is spectacular.

We had already been traveling for about 5 days (trip to Florida to watch the bowl game) when we arrived at about 9pm into Varadero.  We changed all the money we hoped to use for our trip at the airport, and caught a taxi to our apartment.  Varadero is the most touristy part of Cuba, full of large all-inclusive resorts on a world-class beach that runs for miles.  Basically the apartment I had found on-line was part of a larger very nice resort, but we were classified what we termed 2nd class citizens by wristbands indicating we hadn’t paid for all inclusive.  This turned out to mean we really couldn’t even find a place to pay for breakfast the first morning.  We ended up buying bread, eggs, ham and cheese and making our own breakfast sammies in our admittedly quite nice apartment.  This proved to be a great decision and especially delicious, we noted, because everything tasted uncommonly fresh.

Wilder getting his "people to people" on, bonding over rap music.

View from our apartment

Our next activity though didn’t include any lounging on the beach because we needed accommodation for our 3rd night, which happened to be New Year’s Eve.  Our plan to extend one night was laughed at by the front desk.  They told us the whole town was booked up, and other towns would be no better.  More and more visitors are flooding Cuba and their infrastructure isn't really keeping up.

After a couple hours of calling around, the concierge offered up 2 rooms at a lesser resort for $320 PER ROOM for a total of $640 for one night.  Admittedly I was tempted, if only because we didn’t know what else to do, but the spector of running out of cash, combined with a security guard kicking us out of an “all inclusive area” while we were trying to search the non-functional internet, led us to try for a more economical, and hopefully welcoming, choice.  So we made the decision to ride the bus into town and go house-to-house looking for another option.  I’m not too proud to admit that I begged my family to let me sit in our air conditioned apartment and read while they went hunting.  They must love me because they agreed.  They came back more than 3 hours and much adventure later, tired but successful.  They had to pay for two nights to get one in a tiny 2-bedroom Casa Particular – but at 140 CUC that was a savings of $500, a really large part of our budget.  Those kind of successes came to typify our trip.  When our door to door hunts for lodging led to nice and reasonably priced rooms we were exultant!

Finally a well deserved hour or two of beach time.

This first Casa Particular actually reminded us of our home in Woodland Hills, as the owners rented out multiple spaces on the property, and lived themselves in the way back – trading comfort and prestige for cash.  We could totally relate!  This family was also super friendly.  They showed us their giant ham hock they were grilling over a wheel barrel along with the birds and rabbits they kept near by.  Their kids frolicked with us as we lounged on the great front porch, and we were invited to join them for cake to ring in the new year.  Sadly Mark and I didn’t make it to midnight, but after spending a fun night with a lot of locals listening to live music, Wilder and Peyton joined the family for the promised cake and called it a highlight of their trip.

So that summarizes our first two days (3 nights) in Cuba - the first half too stressed and busy to enjoy the expensive tourist place, where we didn't feel we were treated all that nice anyway, and the next half, near perfect, making great memories hanging with Cubans in our comfy local budget spot.

Next we had to come up with where else we wanted to spend 3 days before our existing reservations in Havana.  More on that and our continuing housing hunts in my next post.

No comments:

Post a Comment